IsoAcoustics GAIA I Speaker Isolators Review
I have a great deal of respect for isolation devices, though certain caveats should always be considered. I have reviewed and/or owned some of the most simple to the most sophisticated. This includes designs from Butcher Block Acoustics, Solidsteel, Adona, Sound Anchors, Silent Running Audio, Harmonic Resolution Systems, Rix Rax, Critical Mass, and Grand Prix. You have heard it before, but virtually all will certainly make a difference — some for the good and some for the not so good. And like all things audio, compatibility can be critical.
With this in mind, the IsoAcoustics GAIA I speaker isolators are something very special. There is real science and logic behind the design. The results were immediate and quite easy to identify. There was no break in. There was no micro or macro speaker positioning required. Installation and setup took less than 15 minutes for both speakers. At a cost of less than a moderately priced power cord, the results in my system were hard to ignore.
Rather than try to paraphrase what the GAIA I speaker isolators are claimed to provide, please see the three key points below that were taken directly from the IsoAcoustics website. This will help you better understand the design choices and key objectives. This includes statements about listening position, supporting surfaces, and internal reflections.
There are three types of GAIA models available depending on the size and weight of your speakers. The GAIA I isolators under review here are for speaker loads from 120 to 220 lbs. Each are made of machined metal with a three layer design that provides for three points of contact and maximum isolation. The bottom of each unit utilizes a rubber base for interfacing with hard surfaces. An additional spike accessory is available for use with thick carpets.
The GAIA I comes four to a set at $599, and are shipped in an elegantly designed storage box with latch. The set also includes a small wrench, three types of thread sizes (M8, M6, and 1/4-20), and matching knurled nuts for proper installation. There is an excellent set of tools on the IsoAcoustics website with several very informative videos and an extensive list of FAQs that will help you with assembly and installation. There is also an online list of numerous speaker models and thread size requirements. Even beyond that, the folks at IsoAcoustics will help you find an appropriate configuration and solution where possible if your speaker is not listed.
Everything about the design and construction of these GAIA isolators is first class. I hesitated to use the word "footers" in this review, as these devices are so much more innovative and sophisticated than that word implies. From an aesthetic perspective (which I realize is always subjective), a set of GAIAs does nothing less than enhance the look of your speakers. See the picture below of a pair of Focal speakers as just one example. Even the storage box would look just fine on your coffee table next to your leather bound classic book collection.
One last comment on design. For those of you who might want to dive deeper into the science, please see the IsoAcoustics website for a fairly detailed description of studies made at the National Research Council of Canada. This includes some very interesting data utilizing a laser-vibrometer and anechoic chamber analysis for a GAIA vs. spike comparison. You can find more on this here.
What did we all hear? There was a clarity and lack of distortion at every frequency that did not seem possible before. The sound stage was further extended in all directions, and images were almost spooky in terms of dimensionality and detail. Bass was so much more layered and defined. Yes, I use these words to describe bass performance which is rarely appropriate. I have found improvements on these variables from other components, but never so awe-inspiring and high on the Richter scale.
Now, the Strads are known for their rich and almost chocolate like presentation. The GAIAs were able to strip away a layer of excessive warmth and still leave the proper harmonics and musicality that I so love from these speakers. I am not saying that the GAIAs will transform that classic Sonus Faber sound into something more reverberant like a Magico Q7 (which I had in house for over a year). The true character of the speaker remained, but now the presentation was so much more unconstrained and revealing and so much more fun!
The Doors, The Doors (45 RPM LP)
My go to for The Doors is my 45 RPM LP from the Analogue Productions 45 RPM Box Set. There has always been some discussion on this pressing for whether it is sourced from the original master tapes, or some other variation due to damage or lost archives. I have listened to the final track, "The End," via well over a dozen other releases, including original pressings and soundtracks. With the GAIAs in place, it has never sounded better—second generation tapes or not. My listening room just filled with a new found level of air and ambiance, and just swallowed me up whole. Guitar and organ are now more eerily present and expressive to firmly rattle your senses. The whack and thunder of drums during the finale will have you squirming. Exciting stuff!
Miles Davis Quartet, Relaxin (45 RPM LP)
Another title from a superb 45 RPM Analogue Productions Box Set (The Miles Davis Quintet - The Great Prestige Recordings), this pressing has always been a personal benchmark for a mono recording. Now we have something even more engaging and expressive. On my favorite track, "Oleo," the soundstage is even wider and deeper—which might surprise even the most dedicated mono enthusiasts. Miles and his muted horn can present challenges for many systems, but here it is beautifully rendered with a natural golden burnish and blatt. Coltrane is almost in your face, and standing locked in before you. Piano has always sounded faint and distant on this recording, but now it is more prominent and realistic. The GAIAs make a significant difference. Miles would be very pleased.
Beethoven Violin Sonata in G Major, Op. 96, Abel & Steinberg (Qobuz FLAC 24-bit/176.4kHz)
Originally produced and recorded by the late David Wilson on the Wilson Audiophile label, this simply recorded chamber music recording is an absolute gem. David Abel on violin and Julie Steinberg on piano are wonderfully presented, and the emotion just pours forth in a beautiful and gentle way. Timbre and tone for both instruments are spot on. Each seem to float in a three dimensional space as the complex harmonic structure of both instruments are beautifully reproduced. You just have to love the music of a small acoustic ensemble when properly recorded. The GAIAs take it up a notch.